Picture 14 « The Process
In order to convert green leaves from the carefully nurtured tea fields into black tea, a highly specialised process is conducted to maintain the final quality of the product.
- Drying (Firing)
- Sorting (Grading)
- Packaging (Packing)
The tea leaves and buds are selectively harvested by using shears or mechanised cutters by tea harvesters.
At the initial stage of the process, freshly cut shoots are spread evenly in special racks, allowing conditioned air to flow through and around the leaves to absorb the moisture and concentrate the juices in the leaf.
The withered leaves are then passed through machines which twist and squeeze the juices down the surface of the leaf.
This is a process that oxidises the tea juices. The period of fermentation varies depending on external conditions and there is a distinct change in colour and aroma. Fermentation is essential for the teas to be palatable.
Fermented teas are transferred to drying machines (ovens) which will then remove the moisture and arrest fermentation. The teas change from a coppery brown to a black colour after this process.
The final stage of the manufacturing process is the sorting of the tea particles to different grades according to shapes and sizes for identification by various specialists involved in tasting, buying and exporting of the tea.
Special machines then pack the teas into tea bag, sachet, envelope, or bulk bag before they are placed in boxes, and subsequently, cartons.
The graded teas will finally leave the factory either packed in the familiar tea chests, aluminium lined paper sacks or in different forms of consumer packs.